17 October 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Lauren Myracle and the National Book Award fiasco

In what is a sad day for all concerned, Lauren Myracle withdrew her novel Shine from consideration for the National Book Awards in the fiction for Young People Category.

It was a fiasco that should have the National Book Foundation covered with shame. Here is Publishers Weekly’s story:

Last week, Chime by Franny Billingsley was added as a sixth nominee to the category, and Harold Augenbraum, NBF executive director, confirmed Monday that NBF staff had originally misheard Shine for Chime when the list of nominees was read by the judges over the phone. The mistake was not caught until the judges heard the announcement on last Wednesday’s radio broadcast. The YPL judge’s panel is chaired by author Marc Aronson.

That was a bad enough mistake; really just amateurish, if you ask me. But then, the NBF said that Shine could stay on the ballot; and then the organization changed its mind and asked Myracle to withdraw her book, which she graciously did.

The first mistake was bad enough. It was compounded by a lame move to “let” Myracle’s book stay on the ballot. What for — as a consolation prize? Much better to have skipped that sop to kindergarten feelings and gone straight to the ultimate decision.

At this point, the awards for this year are irretrievably tainted, and that’s too bad. If Billingsley wins for her novel, will she feel that her award should have an asterisk by it? If another author wins, will they feel as if they were selected just to avoid controversy?

I bet the judges can’t wait for this year to be over.

Lauren, you have my sympathies and your grace under pressure is absolutely admirable. I read your very fine book because my sister, a librarian, pushed it on me. Big sisters always know best and she was right; it is a wonderful book. So now, for anyone who hasn’t read Shine, please go out and buy a copy and find out why the book really could have legitimately been one of the finalists.

Note to readers: don’t let the NBF’s mistake make you miss out on some other good books. Chime and the other nominees look really good. It’s not the authors’ fault at all that this happened. Here’s a link to the nominees.

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